I left you all dangling a bit with the end of that post; so much so in fact that my mom emailed me to confirm that I still thought there was a God! Having assured her of that reality, I will offer up another initially offensive proposition:
The bible never, not once, tells us that we need to believe.
Of course, if you’ve ever read the bible you know that statement to be false. But it is false only on a literal linguistic level, but not on the level of meaning. Here’s what I’m getting at:
The words “faith” and “belief” in English mean two different things. Look them up in a dictionary. While there can be some overlap in the definitions, what the words signify are two different ideas and postures. They are not interchangeable.
The bible never uses the word “belief.”
It’s not in there. Instead, the bible uses the word “pistis/faith.” “Faith” and “belief” are nouns, meaning that they denote an entity or thing. But we do not have a verb form of “faith” in English; instead, we have “believe.” “Believe” connects etymologically to “belief,” as in to practice belief. But the word that we translate “believe” is not connected to “belief” in the bible, but to “faith:” pisteuo, the verb of faith. Literally to believe biblically is to do faith.
Unfortunately, the way that “believe” connects to “belief” for English speakers causes a conflation between what we intuitively know to be belief and what we know to be faith. Faith has a much bigger meaning than belief, and when we encounter this kind of compounded meaning we tend to gravitate towards the smaller of the two; the lowest common denominator. This is born out by the way we talk about what it is to follow Jesus. When we say that it starts with belief, we are saying something other than what the bible says.
Let me say that again so that it sticks. When we say that following Jesus starts with belief we are saying something other than what the bible says.
Of course, we are now left with the task of figuring out what the bible means when it says to do faith. That will, of course, be the subject of coming blog posts.